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November 23, 2013

Gill, Atkins lead UVa past Liberty

Liberty's John Caleb Sanders hit a 3-pointer with 14:30 to play against UVa, cutting the Cavalier lead to 40-31. By the time Sanders connected on his next 3-point look, the Wahoos had all but put the game away thanks to a 20-0 run as they cruised to a 75-53 win over the Flames.

Virginia (4-1) got a team-high 13 points off the bench from Anthony Gill, a big piece of the 41 points head coach Tony Bennett got from his reserves.

Gill's play in the second half, as well as the energy and contributions from Darion Atkins (7 points and a game-high 9 rebounds), stood out to the fifth-year head coach.

"I thought Darion was very good off the bench," Bennett said. "He was just active. The frontcourt is one of our strengths. We're an inside-out team. The ability for those guys, they give us all different things. Anthony can score and I thought Darion defensively, activity, those are the things I'm looking for.

"Hence, when we one-two pass, jack a 3, unless it's the right guy or guys hit a couple in a row, that's not going to going to get it done," Bennett added.

That's the way it was in the first half for the Cavaliers, particularly after the Flames (1-4) went to a 3-2 zone. Up 24-12 with 8:45 left before halftime, UVa settled for too many jumpers, Liberty rebounded well, and the Flames went on a 9-2 run before Justin Anderson hit a 3-pointer to put Virginia up 29-21 with 3:09 left.

Atkins' energy showed over the last 1:35 of the opening half and it gave the Wahoos a boost going into the locker room. Then, over the first 17 minutes of the second half, a more focused UVa defense put the clamps on Liberty and only allowed 15 points by the time Bennett turned to his walk ons.

"That was the difference for us," Bennett explained. "First half, we were impatient. Second half, much more patient, rotated the ball, went high post inside out, guys got shots, and they were much more effective and it helped our defense."

Over that big 20-0 run in the second half, Bennett said his team made Liberty take tougher shots. In turn, the increased defensive effort led to more on the offensive end. It also helped that the 6-foot-5 Malcolm Brogdon guarded Liberty's Davon Marshall in the second half after he put up 11 in the first. Marshall finished with 15.

"We got on the offensive glass, rotated the ball, Malcolm did a good job on Marshall and we made them earn a little more," Bennett added. "We didn't give them many shots at the rim...It's contagious. When guys start sharing the ball, you get easy buckets, your defense revs up, and they kind of go hand in hand."

Brogdon, who finished with 12 points, said having a post-oriented team is a change for the Cavaliers but so far this season they've been able to lean on different guys in the frontcourt to get the job done.

"We have such talented bigs now that can really do it all so we need to play through them," he added. "When we get them open and let them make plays, they in turn get us open shots and make the game easier for the guards."

Said Atkins, "I think we all understand that we have several talented bigs and we all bring something to the table. I think we're all accepting our roles well and bringing energy and that leads to good things...There's just something about that energy that builds chemistry and I think it really shows on the court."

Virginia was out rebounded 18 to 14 in the first half but finished with a 35 to 28 advantage. The Cavaliers hit nine 3-pointers and dominated scoring both in the paint (32 to 16) and off turnovers (33 to 12).

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